Needling now has a rival in the shape of Sneedle Props, a new support system for extensions and bi-fold door installations.
Of the many fledgling inventors Professional Builder has championed over the years it is often a tale of a protracted journey to the finished product. For builders David Sgueglia and Bob Hicks, however, the solution they have delivered to the building industry has been realised in a relatively short space of time – and is the product of no less than a combined 50 years of on-site experience.
Whether you’re building a supporting wall for a knock-through extension, or installing the now perennially popular floor to ceiling bi-folds, needling has hitherto been the answer. It conceals the RSJs and offers that more fashionable open plan feel that homeowners currently crave – but it is a method that can come at a heavy price.
“Needling can cause massive disruption to the upstairs of the property,” explains David. “It can then cost thousands to put right, and put a customer’s bathroom out of action, or leave holes in the walls whilst they’re still occupying those rooms, so if any job on a building site deserved a better way it’s that. We had two extensions on the bounce where we encountered difficulties. The first saw damage to the first floor plasterwork and tiling – which we subsequently needed to remedy – and in the second, we were required to remove radiators, and drill holes through fitted wardrobes. It’s the kind of outcome that can easily put a builder’s profit margin in jeopardy, but it also doesn’t do a great deal for customer satisfaction.”
After those two experiences the very next job would provide David and Bob with the perfect opportunity to find a solution. More and more property owners in the market for an extension are demanding flat ceilings rather than obtrusive steel bulkheads but, when they were asked to build an extension for a client who was well over 6ft 7inches tall, hiding the RSJs became an absolute necessity.
“This particular customer had just had their bathroom remodelled at great expensive so, for any number of reasons, traditional needling just wasn’t an option. We contacted the various prop manufacturers, and there wasn’t anything out there that eliminated potential disruption to the upstairs, so we set about making our own. We bought some steels, cut them to the necessary sizes and employed a firm of whom we are well-acquainted locally to weld them. In order to prove that the concept itself would work our first effort was heavily over-engineered, and we subsequently employed the services of a structural expert who helped us bring the size and weight of the product down quite substantially. Once that was achieved, we quickly realised it was something we could employ on multiple projects.”
What would emerge would be Sneedle Props, a structurally engineered single-sided system that supports the wall from the outside and allows only the knock through area to be disrupted, eliminating drilling through upstairs walls. “Since that very first experience – which was only a couple of years ago – we’ve moved very quickly. We reached the patent pending process in early 2019 and the system is now available to hire. It’s a simple way out of a very common dilemma, but the builders who’ve since experienced the system, have told us it’s the only way they’ll work in the future.” Not only do the Sneedle Props create less disruption, given that they are specifically designed and tested for the job, they represent a safer method, particularly since they are holding up the masonry rather than the floor. Steels can be successfully installed in two or three days, and there’s no need for builders to be up and down stairs working in the rooms above, whilst the money saved can be passed onto the client, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the builder.
Creating a time-saving solution for your fellow tradespeople, whilst also running a successful building firm, is a significant commitment, but the two Hampshire-tradespeople, are determined to expand still further. “Up to now the Sneedle Props have only been available locally,” concludes the 45-year-old, “but there are plans to expand into hirers and merchants, because it’s a product with so many advantages.”